Government Aid (Africa) and Individual Philanthropy to Non-Critical Causes

There’s been a lot in the news about the G-8 Summit and increased aid to Africa. I will use this as an excuse to talk about 1) Governmental aid to poor countries like those in Africa, 2) Individual philanthropy to non-critical causes.

I am not of the belief that blindly doubling or tripling aid to Africa is a smart thing to do. Although I haven’t yet read Jeffrey Sach’s new book The End of Poverty I am generally skeptical of the argument that if we only gave a billion more dollars to Africa all their problems would be solved. Instead, I believe greed, corruption, and poor governance cannot be overcome by a bigger check. Smart fellows like Clive Crook in the National Journal articulate why smart aid is so much more important than more aid. I applaud the Open Society Initiative’s work on governance in Africa and elsewhere. Indeed, as Crook points out, everyone agrees that aid should go to states that are well-governed. The problem is nearly all African countries are not, and this is not a problem that more money can solve.

Now that we’ve all been exposed to the travesties in Africa and other poor countries, it made me reflect on individual philanthropy. I believe that EVERYONE should be a philanthropist in one way or another – get active in causes you believe in. Most people I know – including me! – are active in causes that are in some way local or relevant to us. That is, it makes us feel better when we support a local school because we can see (and reap?) the fruits of our efforts. I am involved in efforts to teach entrepreneurship education to youth. All of this is fantastic. But compared to millions of children dying of hunger or thousands of women raped due to corrupt police…….It is so easy to give and be active in causes that touch you. It is so much harder – and admirable? – to be active in causes that do not.

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